Net Neutrality – Undermining Free Speech, Private Property, Free Markets and the Will of the People

by Mike Wendy on December 31, 2013

WSJ Big Biz1Why should you care about Net Neutrality?  I mean, you probably don’t own or run an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Verizon or AT&T. It’s their issue, not yours, right?

Wrong (note the picture above, taken from “The Rope to Hang Them,” WSJ 1.2.14).

Net Neutrality comprises an astounding list of government-imposed terribles – stuff liberty-lovers must always remain watchful of and work to defeat.  So, if you care about free speech, private property, free markets, or the rule of law, then Net Neutrality, which undermines all of this, should concern you.  Greatly.

More specifically, Net Neutrality –

  • Limits Speech – The “law” prevents ISPs from communicating over their facilities as they want. It imposes restrictions on the types of communications partners ISPs can work with, oblivious to the vibrantly competitive marketplace for communications products and Internet access.  Further, it demands that ISPs carry the speech of others even if they don’t want it.  The First Amendment generally prevents the government from imposing speech requirements on private actors, subject only to exceptional circumstances.  Just because the FCC “says so” – based on nothing more than Chicken Little thinking to “protect” the Internet’s so-call “openness” – does not qualify as an exceptional reason.  Each ISP, not the government, should determine what type of speaker it is, or wants to be.  The marketplace can take it from there. Where markets work and consumers have numerous choices to get online, which they do, the government has no legitimate reason to limit ISP speech.
  • Poaches Private Property – Net Neutrality stops ISPs from using their property as only they may determine.  It demands that edge providers like Google and Netflix get unfettered access to ISP facilities to “speak” to consumers without paying their fair share.  Moreover, ISPs can’t kick them off, granting third-parties perpetual easements on the ISPs private property.  The Fifth Amendment instructs that if government takes private property for a public purpose, its must compensate property owners accordingly.  That compensation clearly isn’t happening with the rule.  Moreover, where property can easily be poached or forced into public servitude, property holders (ISPs) will be reluctant to make sustained investment decisions and innovations in that property.   Because the Internet ecosystem is interdependent – ISPs and the edge – suffer as a result.
  • Willfully Ignores the Marketplace – The Internet’s success and growth came about mainly from deregulation of our communications networks, not more FDR-era regulation.  Consequently, vibrant, silo-busting competition proliferated. Ironically, as the market and technology shattered the industry’s agency-created silos, the FCC believed it remained immune to similar pressures.  In its eyes, the Commission stands above the “fatally flawed” market, with the agency “knowing” that somewhere down the road, market participants will harm consumers.  Maybe not today.  Maybe not in a decade.  But they will, oh yes.  And so, to “protect” the Internet from itself and its “irrational” market-driven guidance (the evil ISPs, that is), the FCC’s imposed an ecosystem-sized, regulatory condom to “more perfectly” guide the growth of the medium. “Smarter” than the spontaneous marketplace, Net Neutrality regulation is a self-interested fabrication designed to engorge an agency at a pivotal time when its mission has come to a close due to marketplace dynamics and the agency’s inability to move beyond the smallness of 1930’s era rules, which still anachronistically control its progressive-leaning commissioners.
  • Creates “Law” without Congress’ Permission – Congress makes the laws and policy; agencies follow and implement it.  Net Neutrality turns this on its head, however, with the FCC creating “law” and policy on its own.  Congress said information services (a.k.a. the Internet) aren’t like phone services.  Yet, that’s how Net Neutrality treats them.  An agency – a creature of Congress – that acts above the will of the People?  Have the governed consented to that?  I don’t think so.  Nether does the Constitution.  Net Neutrality is not the rule of law, but rather the rule of arbitrary rulers who see real law as a mere inconvenience to its power grab.

Look, the market isn’t broken.  Consumers aren’t being harmed.  Competition among different providers and ways of accessing the Internet abounds.  Edge, service, application and device providers only grow.  Adding to this all, the evolution of technology, industry best practices, consumer education and present laws that deal with actual consumer harm further ensure that where there’s a problem it can be fixed, keeping liberty-perverting, government interference to an absolute minimum.

If the FCC thinks Net Neutrality is so necessary – even in light of the Internet’s healthy development – it should ask Congress for permission to “make it better.”

But, it can’t act on its own.

When an agency arbitrarily comes for your speech, for your property, for the marketplace, and for the powers only Congress has (which have been loaned to it from its citizens), that should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Sadly, the FCC isn’t alone in its shenanigans.  Hundreds of other agencies do the same, working their slow-drip process to erode our liberties, one willy-nilly rule at a time.

This year, Uncle Sam issued over 79,000 pages of rules in the Federal Register, the third highest ever.

That’s a lot of willy-nilly.  79,000 pages too much.

S.K. January 1, 2014 at 7:47 am

“Net Neutrality – Undermining Free Speech, Private Property, Free Markets and the Will of the People” Hey, “Mike Wendy”, the internet is ALREADY free. We have the right to create any website we want and say as we please. And people can visit any website of their choice. You take Net Neutrality away, and the big cable companies could slow down or block any website just like this one. So take you’re “media freedom” crap and GTFO, because it’s obvious you’re a one-sided brainless tool that could care less about your personal and individual freedoms, the Constitution and OUR Amendment Rights.

Mike Wendy January 1, 2014 at 4:14 pm

It’s their property, not yours, so if they decide to do whatever they want with it, so be it. It won’t go unchecked.

On a broader level, agencies like the FCC essentially run America. Each day they pour out rules and regulations that strip away our rights. Not all regulations do this, but many do. Too many. Net Neutrality is a pathological example of that.

Thanks for your comment.

Casey January 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm

The infrastructure in use by the majority of today’s ISPs was, in some way, funded or facilitated or otherwise made possible by taxpayer money. There is a national interest in maintaining the neutrality of that “pipeline”.

Additionally, the FCC has purview over the use of the wireless RF spectrum in that they grant valuable licenses to broadcast information over them – which would cover the wireless ISPs such as AT&T’s UVerse.

You start from a knee-jerk position of deriding *any* government action (which I doubt holds for the massive military or secret agency funding, but I’m just speculating) and work your way backward from there. Nothing in your reply to S.K. answers any of his/her points.

The fact is that ISPs, as providers of a “highway”, if you will, have no good reason to inspect the content of the data packets that they transmit between PAYING CUSTOMERS (content providers and end-users). That is, nless they are trying to artificially manipulate or use (throttle, block, PROVIDE TO THE GOVERNMENT, or sell) CUSTOMER content.

What you are arguing for is the removal of transparency from the Internet and a change to the longstanding, and capitalistic practice of charging PAYING CUSTOMERS for the volume of the traffic they require – and replacing it with an arbitrary, large corporation-friendly practice of rewarding those with the most market share and damaging startups and small businesses. How very pro-innovation of you.

Mike Wendy January 6, 2014 at 3:28 pm

There are adequate checks on anticompetitive behavior already available in the marketplace and in present law which mitigate against, but not moot, government intervention. The default (not “knee jerk”) position should be to try and use this, and where there are failures, use narrow means to “fix” them instead of over-broad mandates, which is what Net neutrality is. We have seen more growth and corresponding benefit benefit in the Internet ecosystem when regulations were relaxed, not increased (as Net Neutrality DOES). Why go back to 1934, when those laws, based on protecting monopolies and, presumably, consumers, actually backfired against growth, choice and innovation? On a more fundamental point – Net Neutrality isn’t really about NN for conservatives, but rather about government abusing its position to take liberties away arbitrarily and capriciously and against the Constitution. That’s my biggest concern. The FCC’s action is symptomatic of the broader problem with our government and rights, which we loan to our Representatives.

Mark January 4, 2014 at 6:47 pm

The web exploded precisely because of net neutrality.

Mike Wendy January 4, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Policed w/out government intervention or mandate. Regardless, it may be that companies go further, or change what Net Neutrality “is”. And I’m fine with that. That should be up to them, not the government.

Missy G. January 6, 2014 at 4:46 pm

If anyone wants a cool refresher on the net neutrality basics, check out this short mockumentary:

It’s great, basically.

bongstar420 January 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

I suppose it would be wrong and bad to ban “white only” stores too. These are certainly not the remanent arguments of the Confederacy and the Crown 0r any other past regime that thinks along similar lines. After all, never mind that most of society is owned by a very small minority, they deserve to do what ever they want with it without question. Its not like other people didn’t do the actual work while they plotted all day long.

Those of you who are constantly complaining about government intervention, most of it is co-opted by wealthy elites (through their pawns or should I say lobbyists) who would rather not be bothered with the necessity of manipulating a democratic government.

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